The Russian Central Institute of Aerodynamics, known by the acronym TsAGI, released the first image of the “Slon” (Elephant) scale model, the super-heavy transport aircraft project to replace the An-124, from Antonov.
The model will be used in aerodynamic studies to test the design characteristics of a wind tunnel. At 1.63 meters long and 1.75 meter wingspan, the replica can be reconfigured to test various aerodynamic solutions with different tails, winglets or landing gear types.
Slon is one of the biggest ambitions of the Russian aviation industry that currently does not have large aircraft, a task that was up to Ukrainian Antonov. With clashes between Russia and Ukraine in recent years, the relationship between the two countries has shuddered, damaging the operation of the An-124 jets, among other projects.
President Vladimir Putin’s solution was to stimulate a homemade solution, the Slon, which closely resembles the An-124, with its high wings, four engines and fuselage shape.
However, the TsAGI project is more ambitious: it will use more powerful and economical PD-35 turbofans and composite-part construction to reduce its weight. The intention is that the super cargo aircraft will be able to carry up to 180 tons, 30 more than the An-124 in its latest variant.
The range is estimated at 7,000 km with 150 tons or almost 5,000 km with 180 tons of cargo. It is not yet clear which Russian division could assemble the giant plane if the government authorizes its manufacture.
Local media have stated on other occasions that the airline Volga-Dnepr would be interested in operating the new aircraft in place of the Antonovs, but the cargo company is currently experiencing financial problems.